Marks of the Spirit-filled Life: Part 4
Topic: The Spirit-filled Life Passage: Ephesians 5:18–5:21
The Marks of the Spirit-filled Life Part 4
The Worshipful Congregation
We're looking at marks of the Spirit-filled life and one of the marks we see in this passage is that the Spirit-filled life is a worship-filled life. Worship is more than just the 30 minutes of singing on Sunday morning - it is, in fact, according to Romans 12, all of our lives being offered to God as a living sacrifice.
So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. 1 Cor. 10:31
So our whole lives are to be a worship to God. And yet when Paul describes the Spirit-filled life, you can't escape the conclusion that Paul is describing its effect on believers corporately: the sweet fruit of a Spirit-filled congregation loving and teaching and worshipping the Lord Jesus Christ together.
So that brings us to a question: if our whole lives are to be a worship to God, then what is the meaning of our corporate worship? What are we doing here together each Sunday? Is this necessary? Is it important? Someone says, "I can worship God just as well on my own walking on the beach as at church. I don't need church to worship God." What of that? Is that true? Do we need the assembling to worship? Is so, why?
Let's put the question this way: what is God's purpose for the gathering of a congregation? I think we know it's to worship - but what kind of worship? Why is it important? How is it different than a long walk on the beach?
I believe God's word gives us an answer to that question that may surprise some of us. It might just change the way we look at worship, the church, and what it means to be a worshipper in the local church.
I. The Church is the Temple of the Lord - God Dwells Among His People
To help us better understand what the New Testament says about the nature of the church in our corporate worship, let's turn first to the Old Testament. When God spoke to Moses from the burning bush He declared His intention to rescue His people from slavery, and He told Moses that "when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain." (Ex. 3:12)
When Israel arrived at the mountain, God forbid the people from coming up or even touching the mountain on pain of death, but Moses was allowed to go up the mountain where God met him. Moses was the mediator between God and the people of God and Bible says that when Moses came down the Israelites saw the glory of God reflected on the face of Moses. And they had to put a veil over his face.
This is what Paul was referring to when he wrote to the Corinthians that if the ministry of death, carved in letters on stone, came with such glory that the Israelites could not look at Moses' face, how much more glorious the ministry of the Spirit who brings life and righteousness through Jesus Christ? The law was given through Moses - and though it had a degree of glory, it did not enable us to obey God, it only revealed our disobedience and sentenced us to condemnation. That is why Paul calls it the ministry of death - the law is good, but our inability to keep it condemned us. Jesus came to fulfill the law - keeping it perfectly - and to die in the place of lawbreakers, substituting his righteous self for sinners. The ministry of the Spirit imparts the grace, mercy, and righteousness of Jesus Christ on us when we believe in Him. Christ is our mediator now and Paul says this about him:
2 Cor. 4:6 (ESV)
For God, who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
Then God had Moses build a tabernacle in the middle of the Israelite camp. The tabernacle represented God's dwelling with His people and ruling them as King. With the institution of the sacrificial system of atonement for sin, the worship of God moved from a mountain where the people were forbidden to come near to a dwelling in the middle of where the people lived. Later King David would want to build a temple in Jerusalem for the Lord to dwell in. God would not let David build Him a temple, but He would allow David's son Solomon to build the temple. The temple in Jerusalem represented what the tabernacle did earlier: God's dwelling and ruling in the midst of His people.
In the New Testament it is no longer a building where God dwells, but it is the church - the people of God - who are His dwelling, His temple.
2 Cor. 6:16 (ESV)
What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, "I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people."
Ephes. 2:20-22 (ESV)
[The church is]built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.
So the Church is the dwelling place of God through the Spirit. Right now and through the ages, wherever God's people meet, God is there among His people. Whether a congregation meets in a beautiful building, or an elementary school, or in a tent, God dwells among them. Not because they have great music, or eloquent preaching, or because their lives are all together, but because they are God's people through faith in Jesus Christ. If God is true to His Word (and we know He is) He is with us now. He dwells with us.
So back to our question: what is God's purpose for the gathering of a congregation? How is our worship of God in the assembly different than worshipping God individually?
In almost all of our homes is a TV. You can watch movies and shows there in the privacy of your home. But on occasion, many of us spring for $9 person and go to a movie theatre to watch a movie on a big screen. I recently went to see Slumdog Millionaire with some friends and the theatre was pretty full. I was sitting with a room full of people, but I didn't go to every person in the theatre and introduce myself and get to know them better. That's not what going to a movie is about. We came together to watch something - but we did not share anything together - our focus was on the big screen. That was why we came.
Is that our picture of what congregational worship is? Is it simply taking the worship we could enjoy in the privacy of our own homes and moving it to the big screen? Do we come to church to hopefully receive from the Lord in our worship something a little more powerful than what we experience at home, but basically the same thing - just moved it from home to the church? If it were, then a couple of powerful walks on the beach alone could well have us wondering, "what do I need the church for?"
The Bible indicates that we come together for a very different purpose than just to replicate what we can do at home alone only with more volume. We assemble to worship God for a very specific reason:
II. The church assembles to worship God through the building up of one another
One of the most common words used for our assembling together is the word "build up" or, if you use the KJV, "edify". It comes from the Greek word oikodome, which is the contraction of two words, oikos = house, demo = build. Speaks of construction of house or building and came to mean to build up or edify.
In Ephesians 2 we see that the temple (the church) is being built up (same root word) by the Spirit into a dwelling for God. Then in chapter 4 we are told that the five-fold ministry was given by Jesus Christ to the church to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ... Ephes. 4:12
The goal of that ministry is the building up of the body. Paul carries on that imagery a few verses later that we are to grow up in every way into Christ...from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. Ephes. 4:16 (ESV)
This building up of the body goes on when each part is working properly or doing its part.
As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 2:4-5 (ESV)
We are being built up (oikosdome) and over and over again we are admonished to build one another up.
Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. Ephes. 4:29 (ESV)
[We are to walk in Christ] rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. Col. 2:7 (ESV)
Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. 1 Thes. 5:11 (ESV)
This building up isn't building up in self-esteem or make us feel better, but build us as a temple - a people who love and worship Jesus! That is goal of fellowship and of gathering as an assembly. That's why we can't worship in this essential way alone on the beach. Need each other to "one another".
This shines fresh light on Eph. 5:19-20. It's not that we address each other through songs AND we worship the Lord - but rather we worship the Lord directly by singing together to Him, and we worship the Lord by edifying one another - by encouraging one another to "let the word of Christ dwell richly".
So all the one another's become expressions of worship - we aren't doing it only for one another but primarily for the Lord. Our corporate worship of God is bound up in our helping one another to know and love and worship God and Jesus Christ more passionately. To provoke and stir and encourage one another to love and adore and know and follow and obey and serve the Lord. That is how we worship corporately!
Moves us from a consumerism attitude to a worshipful contributor -what is my part to contribute to others knowing and loving the Lord? When we see God's people assembling as the time that we can worship God by wholeheartedly serving one another to grow in our love and knowledge of Jesus - loving Jesus! - Sunday becomes the most important and dearest day of the week.
¨ Corporate singing isn't just singing to God - it's also declaring to one another God's greatness and His goodness. Psalms like Psalm 149 come alive: Praise the Lord! Sing to the Lord a new song, His praise in the assembly of the godly! It's a call to praise Him, worship Him in the assembly.
¨ Preaching is a high point of corporate worship as we together sit under the proclamation of God's word. It's not primarily a time to hear practical sermonettes on how to have a better life - it's time to draw near to God and submit to His rule through His Word.
¨ According to scripture the spiritual gifts are given for the common good - we are to use our gifts to build up one another - that service to others is worship to Lord
¨ Love one another, pray for one another, speak the truth in love to one another, honor one another, encourage one another, build up one another, rebuke one another...All these one another's become expressions of point one another to Christ that is a worship to God.
Question stirred in my heart about how we can better obey this and grow in this as a church. Couple of thoughts as we close:
¨ Testimonies - we want to give more opportunities for people to share how God has answered prayer or ministered to them in some way. I will typically ask you to write out thoughts - not to be formal or rigid - but over the years I have found most people share far more effectively and precisely when they write out their thoughts - and it is then more beneficial to the congregation.
¨ Special songs - opportunities for folks to minister in that way. Meant a lot to me as a young man, loved the opportunity to share, and to hear.
¨ Come listening to Spirit's leading how He may want to use you to encourage and build others up. Might be a prophecy, a scripture reading, private encouragement to someone. Be sensitive.
So participating in these are some ways - there are many more. But I want to mention one very practical way we can grow in worshipping the Lord corporately. By coming with our hearts prepared to worship the Lord with whole heart and by arriving on time.
I know that many have made a real effort to arrive at church on time and that is so appreciated. For those who find themselves consistently running late - and it's a big enough group here that no one should feel singled out - please consider these thoughts in light of what we've just seen from God's word about our corporate worship being the building up of one another - provoking and encouraging one another to a greater love for Jesus. You can help that cause along big time just by taking whatever steps are necessary to get out of the house 10 or 15 minutes earlier.
We could make the service start a little later - 10:30am - but I'm pretty sure that folks would then arrive at 10:40am. It's not the clock, it's a deeper issue folks. If you knew we were handing out hundred dollar bills to every person who got here by 9:55am, do you think we'd see an improvement? But stop a moment and think: what does that say about what we value?
Something far more valuable than $100 occurs every time God's people gather. We come to worship the
living God - to draw near to Him as the temple of God. We come to build one another up in our most holy faith - to help others know and love Jesus more! And being here promptly and ready to worship the living God together is a practical but important way we can worship the Lord and serve our brothers and sisters. So whatever you're doing - keep doing it! Just start doing it 15, 20 minutes earlier. Get up earlier. Prepare stuff the night before - whatever it takes! God will honor your effort and it will bless the church - the assembly of God's people.
The exciting picture of corporate worship we see in the NT is that it moves our concept of worship beyond the personal, "bless me Lord" mentality into a giving, sacrificing, loving mindset that offers ourselves to God by offering ourselves to one another.
We have the privilege of not only seeking to grow in our personal white-hot enjoyment of Christ's glory - which is essential to our worship - but also serving others to grow in their white-hot love and worship of the Lord Jesus Christ and His glory! There is no greater thing to give our lives to!
Let's stand and praise the Lord!